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FA Carling Premiership, 18/9/99
Irrational hatred
By Matt Rowson

David Mellor?

No. Mellor is a repulsive egomaniac with a gap between his teeth the size of Mickey Droy, but these are reasons to hate David Mellor, not reasons to hate Chelsea.

The patchwork quilt of a football team, then? Hmmm. When I was at school I ran a fantasy league of sorts, where participants managed a squad of players and picked a side for their weekly fixtures. Freed from the constraints of work permits and the complication of talking wages, and given my lack of resilience to being badgered, elaborate signings flourished. Ruud Gullit signed for Oxford. Kieron signed half the Polish team to play for Wimbledon. QPR merged with Celtic. Maradona signed for Chelsea with Nigel Spackman and Clive Wilson joining Napoli in part exchange.

I packed it in because it was getting silly. In 1986, Mirandinha's floundering around at Newcastle was illustrating why "foreigners" would never really hack it in the English league. Thirteen years later, Chelsea's squad is more ludicrous than anything concocted then.

But that's not the reason to hate Chelsea either. Sure, it's impossible to motivate yourself to support a London-based team of international all-stars against a Milan-based team of like, but to suggest that Chelsea are a hotchpotch of individuals thrown together and fancifully called a team would be folly. Quite apart from footballing quality, an astonishingly ferocious team spirit is increasingly evident at Stamford Bridge.

What about the fans? What about the fact that so many believe that Chelsea's transformation from scummy also-rans to the sexiest team in the country has elevated their own individual status accordingly. Let's get one thing bloody straight... supporting a good team doesn't make you a good person, a football expert, or in any way a morally superior example to the rest of the human race. Your average Chester City fan will appreciate good football as much as any Stamford Bridge regular (and probably be more interesting company). And any fan of any "big club" who suggests otherwise to my face this season is likely to provoke this serf into unequivocal revolt.

But no, that's not it either. Apart from anything else, their fans are far from the only culprits, and further from the worst. So what is it then? Kerry Dixon? That appalling tablecloth strip of the late eighties? Ken Bates? Nah. All lamentable. None truly a justification for hating this team.

It was my girlfriend who sorted it for me. Tsega, you see, hates cheese. She never eats it. Ever. In fact, she has never eaten it; she has no idea what it tastes like. But on Sunday she vehemently defended her right to hate cheese simply for the sake of hating cheese. Irrational, maybe, but still her right. Difficult to argue with (I know, I've tried).

This pretty much sums up Chelsea. You hate them. I hate them. Everyone hates them. They're Chelsea, end of story; you don't need to justify anything. To hell with logic… I'm a Statistician, I have to be ultra-logical in my work, I'm buggered if I'm going to be rational when I'm not being paid for it.

Chelsea are good. They have lots of famous players. But remember, we have lots of good players. Tore Andre Flo may be strong. But he's not as strong as Mark Williams. Dan Petrescu is an enterprising, dangerous midfielder. But he hasn't been marked by Paul Robinson before. Now that's dangerous. Gustavo Poyet... he can do anything. And Johnno can do it better. Lebouef and Desailly... World Cup winning centre backs. Yeah, but they didn't face Tommy Mooney or Wouter the Shooter in France 1999, did they?

Games like this are what it's all about. We can't be intimidated, can't be scared... and we shouldn't be. Chelsea like passing it around, but they don't like being denied space... note poor performances against Leicester in recent years. And they aren't scoring many at the moment.

Most of all, Chelsea are a good side, but that's all. Don't forget that after Tommy's goal at Anfield he was suddenly touted by the media as Watford's goalmachine, a lower division plodder come good. Now, we know Tommy. Hero he is, goalmachine he won't ever be. That Chelsea's reputation has been built up similarly shouldn't dissuade us, all of us - players and fans - from the task in hand on Saturday.

I like Cheese.

I hate Chelsea.

Bring 'em on.